The transcriptional landscape of polyploid wheat

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Abstract

The coordinated expression of highly related homoeologous genes in polyploid species underlies the phenotypes of many of the world’s major crops. Here we combine extensive gene expression datasets to produce a comprehensive, genome-wide analysis of homoeolog expression patterns in hexaploid bread wheat. Bias in homoeolog expression varies between tissues, with ~30% of wheat homoeologs showing nonbalanced expression. We found expression asymmetries along wheat chromosomes, with homoeologs showing the largest inter-tissue, inter-cultivar, and coding sequence variation, most often located in high-recombination distal ends of chromosomes. These transcriptionally dynamic genes potentially represent the first steps toward neo- or subfunctionalization of wheat homoeologs. Coexpression networks reveal extensive coordination of homoeologs throughout development and, alongside a detailed expression atlas, provide a framework to target candidate genes underpinning agronomic traits in wheat.

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